punjab notes: Population and real estate: boon and bane.

Let's start by making a sweeping statement: u nstoppable increase in population and unfettered growth of real estate business are in a process of destroying Punjab as the granary of the region. The former does it unconsciously and out of ignorance born of poverty and ideology. The latter does so consciously and out of greed born of a class system premised on possession as the human ideal. Both are interconnected. Things have come to such a pass that we have no sufficient food, clothes, medicines and schools for the children we are blessed with at the moment. One of the major reasons apart from structural problems, misgovernment and rampant corruption, is their number. They are so many. And what can one do with so many except simply ignore them? Now so many are so many that we have to import wheat, our staple, for our daily bread. We cannot even produce enough vegetables. Onion and tomato, the essential ingredients of our cooked food, too have to be bought from foreign markets.

West Punjab especially after the introduction of a massive and intricate canal network in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century by the colonial administration has been sufficient in food. The areas touched by canal irrigation were called canal colonies which showcased a massive socio-economic transformation. 'This part of Punjab did not benefit, as did the eastern parts of the province, from the monsoonal rains of sufficient strength to support settled agriculture. Cultivated lands, as a result, were confined to areas accessible to irrigation, which was derived either from groundwater sources through wells or from seasonal canals utilizing river water. The laying out of an extensive network of canals based on perennial irrigation, with water drawn from the rivers through permanent weirs and headworks, has in the past century transformed this region from desert waste or at least pastoral savannah, to one of the major centres of commercialized agriculture in South Asia,' writes Dr Imran Ali in his account of this historical development in his book's Punjab under Imperialism.

The commercialized agriculture mentioned above is fast crumbling under the weight of numbers; the division of hereditary land into smaller parcels has made the cultivation unprofitable. Secondly, it fails to meet the expanding needs of the population dependent on it that grows at lightning speed. Thirdly, fertile lands surrounding metropolises, cities and towns are being taken over by real...

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